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- The Young Explorer - 30/35 -
had been from the outset a disgusted witness of what had taken place.
"And what's that?" demanded O'Reilly angrily.
"To make a living," answered Richard Dewey quietly.
As this is the first time this young man has been introduced, we will briefly describe him. He was of medium size, well knit and vigorous, with a broad forehead, blue eyes, and an intelligent and winning countenance. He might have been suspected of too great amiability and gentleness, but for a firm expression about the mouth, and an indefinable air of manliness, which indicated that it would not do to go too far with him. There was a point, as all his friends knew, where his forbearance gave way and he sternly asserted his rights. He was not so popular in camp as some, because he declined to drink or gamble, and, despite the rough circumstances in which he found himself placed, was resolved to preserve his self-respect.
O'Reilly did not fancy his interference, and demanded, in a surly tone:
"Do you mean to compare me wid this haythen?"
"You are alike in one respect," said Richard Dewey quietly. "Neither of you were born in this country, but each of you came here to improve your fortunes."
"And hadn't I the right, I'd like to know?" blustered O'Reilly.
"To be sure you had. This country is free to all who wish to make a home here."
"Then what are you talkin' about, anyway?"
"You ought to be able to understand without asking. Ki Sing has come here, and has the same right that you have."
"Do you mane to put me on a livel wid him?"
"In that one respect, I do."
"I want you to understand that Patrick O'Reilly won't take no insults from you, nor any other man!"
"Hush, O'Reilly!" said Terence O'Gorman, another Irish miner. "Dewey is perfectly right. I came over from Ireland like you, but he hasn't said anything against either of us."
"That is where you are right, O'Gorman," said Richard Dewey cordially. "You are a man of sense, and can understand me. My own father emigrated from England, and I am not likely to say anything against the class to which he belonged. Now, boys, you have had enough sport out of the poor Chinaman. I advise you to let him go."
Ki Sing grasped at this suggestion.
"Melican man speak velly good," he said.
"Of course, you think so," sneered O'Reilly. "I say, boys, let's cut off his pigtail," touching the poor Chinaman's queue.
Ki Sing uttered a cry of dismay as O'Reilly's suggestion was greeted with favorable shouts by the thoughtless crowd.
THE DUEL OF THE MINERS.
O'Reilly's suggestion chimed in with the rough humor of the crowd. They were not bad-hearted men, but, though rough in their manners, not much worse on the average than an equal number of men in the Eastern States. They only thought of the fun to be obtained from the proceeding, and supposed they would be doing the Chinaman no real harm.
"Has anybody got a pair of scissors?" asked O'Reilly, taking the Chinaman by the queue.
"I've got one in my tent," answered one of the miners.
"Go and get it, then."
Ki Sing again uttered a cry of dismay, but it did not seem likely that his valued appendage could be saved. Public sentiment was with his persecutor.
He had one friend, however, among the rough men who surrounded him, the same who had already taken his part.
Richard Dewey's eyes glittered sternly as he saw O'Reilly's intention, and he quietly advanced till he was within an arm's length of Ki Sing.
"What do you mean to do, O'Reilly?" he demanded sternly.
"None of your business!" retorted O'Reilly insolently.
"It is going to be my business. What do you mean to do?"
"Gut off this haythen's pigtail, and I'd just like to know who's going to prevent me."
At this moment the miner who had gone for a pair of scissors returned.
"Give me them scissors!" said O'Reilly sharply.
Richard Dewey reached out his hand and intercepted them. He took them in place of O'Reilly.
"Give me them scissors, Dewey, or it'll be the worse for you!" exclaimed the tyrant furiously.
Dewey regarded him with a look of unmistakable contempt.
There was a murmur among the miners, who were eager for the amusement which the Chinaman's terror and ineffectual struggles would afford them.
"Give him the scissors, Dewey!" said half a dozen.
"Boys," said Dewey, making no motion to obey them, "do you know what you are about to do? Why should you interfere with this poor, unoffending Chinaman? Has he wronged any one of you?"
"No, but that ain't the point," said a Kentuckian. "We only want to play a joke on him. It won't do him no harm to cut his hair."
"Of course not," chimed in several of the miners.
"Do you hear that, Dick Dewey?" demanded O'Reilly impatiently. "Do you hear what the boys say? Give me them scissors."
"Boys, you don't understand the effects of what you would do," said Dewey, taking no notice of O'Reilly, much to that worthy's indignation. "If Ki Sing has his queue cut off, he can never go back to China."
"Is that the law, squire?" asked a loose-jointed Yankee.
"Yes, it is. You may rely on my word. Ki Sing, if you cut off your queue, can you go back to China?"
"No go back-stay in Melica allee time."
"You see he confirms my statement."
"That's a queer law, anyway," said the Kentuckian.
"I admit that, but such as it is, we can't alter it. Now, Ki Sing has probably a father and mother, perhaps a wife and children, in China. He wants to go back to them some time. Shall we prevent this, and doom him to perpetual exile, just to secure a little sport? Come, boys, you've all of you got dear ones at home, that you hope some day to see again. I appeal to you whether this is manly or kind."
This was a sort of argument that had a strong effect. It was true that each one of these men had relatives for whom they were working, the thought of whom enabled them to bear hard work and privations thousands of miles away from home, and Richard Dewey's appeal touched their hearts.
"That's so! Dewey is right. Let him go, O'Reilly!" said the crowd.
The one man who was not touched by the appeal was O'Reilly himself. Not that he was altogether a bad man, but his spirit of opposition was kindled, and he could not bear to yield to Dewey, whose contempt he understood and resented.
His reply was, "I'm goin' to cut off the haythen's pigtail, whether or no. Give me them scissors, I tell you," and he gave a vicious twitch to the Chinaman's queue, which made Ki Sing utter a sharp cry of pain.
Richard Dewey's forbearance was at an end. His eyes blazed with fury, and, clenching his fist, he dashed it full in the face of the offending O'Reilly, who not only released his hold on Ki Sing, but measured his length on the ground.
O'Reilly was no coward, and he possessed the national love of a shindy. He sprang to his feet in a rage, and shouted:
"I'll murder ye for that, Dick Dewey! See if I don't!"
"A fight! a fight!" shouted the miners, willing to be amused in that way, since they had voluntarily given up the fun expected from cutting off the Chipaman's queue.
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